Education Secretary Criticizes Affirmative Action
By Charles Dervarics
Race-conscious college admissions hurt low-income minority students by pitting them against more affluent African American and Latino youth who could afford college anyway, U.S. Education Secretary Roderick Paige says.
In his latest effort to push race-neutral college admissions, Paige told an Education Department conference audience that race-conscious admissions promote “economic segregation” by pitting affluent minority students against their low-income peers. “And the major losers in the contest are, once again, the low-income minority kids,” he said.
Paige opened a two-day conference on race-neutral college admissions by citing the issue of “economic segregation” of students, an issue touted recently by Business Week magazine and in a new study from The Century Foundation. The secretary also directly criticized the University of Michigan’s controversial affirmative action policy, which is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“If our goal is harmony and diversity, then why would we use methods that are divisive, unfair and impossible to square with our Constitution?” he said. “It is not right to fight discrimination with discrimination. And that is what the Michigan system promotes.”
In a changing world, he said, educators must have the “courage to embrace fresh new ideas” such as race-neutral admissions.
Paige said he and President Bush support civil rights and greater diversity in American education and life. “But we believe that we can — and we must — achieve these goals without resorting to methods that divide, that perpetuate stereotypes and that pit one group of Americans against another.”
Paige praised efforts under way in Florida, California and Texas to guarantee admission to high-achieving students at all public schools, both affluent and low income. Many colleges also are considering applicants’ life experiences, potential and economic hardships in making admissions decisions.
The conference included workshops on Texas, Florida and California race-neutral admissions policies, as well as initiatives to increase advanced placement study and partnerships among colleges and low-performing public schools. The Education Department recently released a report highlighting many of these efforts, which is available at
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